Vikings' issues deeper than Favre

NFL columnist
Yahoo! Sports

Two games in, two losses down, and Brett Favre(notes) is a problem. But make no mistake, he's not the only problem for the Minnesota Vikings.

Of course, shortsighted critics of the Vikings may see it differently. They will watch film of Favre in Sunday's 14-10 loss to Miami, and see an aging quarterback moving slower than ever. They'll see him inexplicably flowing into the pass rush in the pocket, displaying a lack of feel. They'll see Favre throwing into more double coverage than at anytime last season. They'll cluck their tongues in dismay while recounting how Favre missed virtually all of training camp and had to be dragged back to Minnesota during the preseason.

Brett Favre was sacked three times during the Vikings 14-10 loss to the Dolphins.
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

On all counts, they'll be right.

But sitting winless and facing a Detroit Lions team next week that has hardly been a pushover, the Vikings are facing woes that go beyond Favre's shortcomings. Indeed, the pieces around the aging star quarterback have broken down right with him. The offensive line that once was touted as the best in football has looked slow and confused against the pass rush. The wideouts have been almost nonexistent, particularly Bernard Berrian(notes), one of the most overpaid and underperforming players of this young season. Even Percy Harvin(notes) has failed to take the expected strides forward, his only consistency being his lack of health. Even the defense has been lacking some bite and flexibility, thanks to injuries to Cedric Griffin(notes) and Chris Cook(notes).

With a team that had aging parts, cornerstone Sidney Rice(notes) ailing, and Harvin's migraines slowing his progress, what did the Vikings do to get better? It swapped out Chester Taylor(notes) for Toby Gerhart(notes). It traded for a possession wideout in Greg Camarillo(notes). It drafted a handful of players who haven't been able to get on the field. That's it.


And this is why the Vikings are in this 0-2 spot, wondering exactly how much a trade for Vincent Jackson(notes) would change anything. That's what makes them this week's biggest loser – they failed to be progressive and chose to ride on the success of 2009, ignoring the face of roster realities. The Vikings took the near-miss success of last season – success that was predicated on perfection from almost every part of their team – and they hoped it would happen again in 2010. Now that reality has set in the Vikings are scrambling for a bandage – all while critics line up to point a finger at Favre and lay all the failures at his feet.

But this began months ago, through inactivity that wasn't defined only by Favre sitting at home, away from the team. This started with a lack of foresight and preparation. And it won't end with one trade, particularly not one that is coming months too late.

On to this week's other winners and losers …


The Bengals defense sacked Joe Flacco once and intercepted him four times.
(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals defense
As we said last week, the defense was nowhere near as bad as the lopsided score indicated against the Patriots in Week 1. There is too much talent for this defense to fail. If that front seven can pressure the way it did against Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco(notes) on Sunday, the talented group of cornerbacks will be sucking up interceptions all season long.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews(notes)
When he was at his best last season, the Packers defense was frighteningly good. Now he has six sacks in the first two games of this season – more than half of last season's total of 10 – and 16 in 18 career games. Now, the onus is on coordinator Dom Capers to keep giving Matthews new wrinkles to prevent offenses from isolating on him.

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy(notes)
He ran as tough against Detroit as he has any game in his brief NFL career. Granted, it was a fairly toothless defense, but the question about McCoy coming into this season was whether he could be both tough and explosive with a frame that seems more suited for a third-down back. With a creampuff Jacksonville defense coming next week, he should build some momentum before running into some of the league's top run defenses in October.

Atlanta Falcons
Injuries to running backs Michael Turner(notes) and Jerious Norwood(notes) cast a cloud over Sunday's blowout win over the Cardinals, but how can you not love what you continue to see from Jason Snelling(notes)? He showed late last year that he could carry the load for this offense, then reiterated that Sunday with 186 yards rushing and receiving, and three touchdowns. Matt Ryan(notes) and the defense looked flawless, too. Considering what Pittsburgh did to Tennessee on Sunday, this Falcons team could be a whole lot better than anyone realizes.

Kansas City Chiefs
They are 2-0 in a division that appears to be wide open. And frankly, the defense has looked fairly good. With the 49ers coming into Arrowhead before the Week 4 bye, the Chiefs could be undefeated headed into the Week 5 tilt against Indianapolis. In other words, the offense has three weeks to get Matt Cassel's(notes) head screwed on straight.

Miami Dolphins
The offense won't blow your mind, and the jury is still way, way out on quarterback Chad Henne(notes). But Miami is still a solid 2-0 with a defense that has allowed a wafer-thin 20 points. The next two weeks will be very interesting with games against the Jets and Patriots. Miami could be in the AFC East driver's seat by the Week 5 bye.

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley (56) and safety Ryan Clark (25) tackle Titans RB Chris Johnson. Johnson was held to 34-yards rushing.
(Don McPeak-US PresswireE)

Pittsburgh Steelers defense
It has been a while since the Steelers have clicked like they did on Sunday, notching four sacks, three interceptions and recovering four fumbles. Don't look now, but Pittsburgh is now 2-0 against two teams that could be playoff contenders. A 3-1 mark or even 4-0 during Ben Roethlisberger's(notes) suspension is within grasp.

• Detroit Lions rookies
It's hard to give a nod to players on a winless team, but the pundits couldn't have been more correct when they lauded the Lions for landing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh(notes) and running back Jahvid Best(notes) in the first round of this year's NFL draft. Both players have had big impacts immediately, with Suh putting up eight tackles and two sacks in two games, and Best torching his way to 268 yards rushing and receiving, and five total touchdowns. Make no mistake, the Lions are stacking the deck for the coming years.

Chicago Bears
Biggest surprise 2-0 team? It might be the Bears after a preseason that wasn't all that inspiring. The Bears' passing game is doing what many thought it would do after the addition of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. But forget a win over the bumbling Cowboys. Next week's game against the Packers is the true measuring stick.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden(notes)
He looks like a different player this season, running harder and initiating more contact than at any point in his career. Clearly the Michael Bush(notes) injury has opened the door for McFadden, and he has seemingly realized this may be his last opportunity to lock down the starting job in Oakland. Someone get the champagne … one of the disastrous first-round picks from Al Davis might be making good on all that money invested.

San Diego Chargers defense
This unit wasn't the problem in Week 1. And it could very well be the saving grace until the offense gets its act together. I don't know what's more amazing: that San Diego forced six turnovers, or that linebacker Shawne Merriman(notes) started the game on the bench and didn't factor into any of them. With Antonio Cromartie(notes) gone, cornerback Antoine Cason(notes) is coming into his own.

• The New York Jets
Finally, after all the smack talking, the Jets put together a game worthy of all the offseason hype. Not only did they dominate the Patriots defensively – and largely without the help of Darrelle Revis(notes) – the Jets offense had one of the best games of Mark Sanchez's(notes) career. You got a feeling the Jets just needed a big game to start some momentum. This one might be it.

• The Houston Texans
Trailing by a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Houston rallied and continued to show some surprising mental toughness. This isn't the same team that folded or blew games with bad coaching decisions last season. Talk about Arian Foster(notes) all you want, but the difference for this team down the stretch will always be quarterback Matt Schaub(notes), who has fully materialized as everything the franchise was looking for when it acquired him in 2007. His 497 yards on Sunday represent the biggest game of his career.


Vince Young lies on the field after being sacked by the Steelers in the third quarter. Young was replaced by Kerry Collins a short time later.
(AP Photo/John Russell)

Vince Young(notes)
Amazing how one week can change so much. Young went from looking as solid and productive as ever against Oakland in Week 1 to being the inept guy who got benched for Kerry Collins(notes). And that's where Young was again this week, benched for Collins after two interceptions and one lost fumble. Time is running out for Young to turn a corner and find some consistency.

• John Fox
He's in the final year of his contract, and off to an 0-2 start largely because of the faith he put in Matt Moore(notes) as his starting quarterback. Jimmy Clausen(notes) was drafted to be the future, but unless he can step in and light a fire under this offense, it may be a future without Fox. Coaches should take note when placing their job security in the hands of questionable quarterbacks. Listening, Ken Whisenhunt?

• Ravens offense
All those skill position additions on offense won't matter if the Ravens can't keep Flacco protected and run the ball consistently. Many people will point to Flacco as the chief problem for the disappointing 20 points scored in the first two weeks, but that offensive line isn't playing to last season's level.

Cleveland Browns
Wake me when Mike Holmgren starts working his magic. Correction … call me if Mike Holmgren ever starts working his magic.

Buffalo Bills
Remember how Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix were going to change the inept fortunes in Buffalo? Think again. This is the worst offensive team in football. And ownership is just as much to blame as anyone, with its decisions on coaches and front-office personnel. Welcome to Raiders East, Bills fans.

Washington Redskins
They were leading by a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter and repeatedly missed chances at a game-winning blow. The overthrow of what would have been a sure touchdown to Joey Galloway(notes) was almost as crushing as Graham Gano's(notes) overtime winning field goal being nullified by a timeout. No doubt, this team is better than it was a year ago, but there is still a lot of work to do from the standpoint of mental toughness.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
Jones has got to be losing his mind. The offensive play-calling on his team is suspect. The running backs are overpaid and average. The quarterback can't consistently make key plays, and when he does, they are negated by mistakes. These are all things that will inevitably grind on Jones, who deep down always feels like he knows what is best for his team. With next week's game against Houston looking tough, it's possible Jones enters the Dallas bye winless and in a mood to shake things up.



Loved: The hit that Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons(notes) delivered on Tennessee's Chris Johnson with about seven minutes left in the first quarter. If your kid plays linebacker, get the highlight of that hit. Timmons got low and knocked the slobber out of Johnson. You won't see CJ2K hit harder this season.

Loathed: Seeing an already ailing Philadelphia offensive line suffer more problems as Jason Peters(notes) went in an out of Sunday's game with injuries. There are few units that have been more plagued in football since the start of the 2009 season.

Eagles QB Michael Vick passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions and also rushed for 37 yards.
(Andrew Weber-US Presswire)

Loved: Seeing Eagles quarterback Michael Vick(notes) put up his best game as a quarterback in years. Yes, it was against the Lions, but you have to give him credit for getting himself back into NFL shape. I can't remember when he last looked so good.

Loathed: Watching Matt Cassel and recalling the fat contract he got last year. More than ever, the guy looks like the product of a fluke season that was aided by the talents of Randy Moss(notes) and Wes Welker(notes). If he doesn't turn it around fast, it may be Brodie Croyle(notes) time yet again.

Loved: Watching Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman(notes) with a little bit of time to work in the pocket. He got lost in the Mark Sanchez/Matthew Stafford(notes) lovefest last season, but appears to have taken a sizeable step forward this year. He can't be left out of the young quarterback conversation anymore.

Loathed: The Dallas offense. We're still waiting for this group to become the NFL's offensive juggernaut. And Roy Williams is just a guy now. He won't be on that team next year.

Loved: Seeing yet another “going to the ground” call; this time, a DeSean Jackson(notes) non-catch versus Detroit. Here's an interesting experiment: look at Jackson's overturned catch and the one from Calvin Johnson(notes) in Week 1. The NFL wants you to believe those are essentially the same thing. This speaks to the stupidity of the rule.

Loathed: The Bears' offensive line. It was pitiful in the first quarter against Dallas, as well as last week's game against Detroit. No quarterback in the NFL is going to take more abuse than Jay Cutler(notes). This is general manager Jerry Angelo's biggest failure.

Loved: Seeing Steelers wideout Hines Ward(notes) and Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan(notes) mix it up with some blows. Talk about two guys who deserve each other. Both are universally regarded as two of the NFL's dirtiest players.

Loathed: Seeing Falcons running back Jerious Norwood carted off in the first quarter against the Cardinals with yet another injury. So much speed and athleticism, but the door appears to be closing on Norwood ever putting it all together.

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